Dreamwork as Spiritual Practice

Looking for Work on My Behalf

By Tina Tau, Guest Blogger

In my last post, I started to tell the story of some dreams that belong to a trip I took to Italy in the fall of 2006, when my marriage was crumbling.

In Pari, an old Tuscan hill-town with winding climbing streets and ancient stone houses connected like beehives, I had a tiny studio for ten days. I started my days in the empty plaza a few steps up from my apartment, listening to roosters and the occasional bang of a hunter’s gun, looking out over the golden sweep of clouds and fields. Then I strode a mile downhill to the farm where my friend Rosie was staying with her boyfriend Carlos.

She and I helped his two farmhands with the olive harvest. It was happy, hard work. Olive trees are beautiful, with their twisty trunks and slender silvery leaves. We laughed, ate cold frittata for lunch on the rough-tilled ground, shook big nets of olives into blue plastic bins. Carlos put the bins in the back of his car and drove them to the presser, where they turned into silky, neon-green olive oil. We all ate dinner together and then I’d walk back up the hill in the dark, past the olive groves and lavender fields.

But I’d come on this adventure not just to pick olives and eat home-cured prosciutto; I’d come to interrupt my life, to see it from the outside instead of the painful, constricted inside. Should I leave my husband? Could I? What about our daughters? I had no money, and all I knew at this point was that I had to get a job. Without any money, I had no choices. Beyond that, I couldn’t see. I was starving for some perspective, for the long view. I wanted to be so far out at sea that I could steer my ship to end up on an entirely different coastline than the one I was headed for.

I took a day off from picking: November first, the Day of the Dead. It was foggy and cold. It was a day devoted to steering my ship. I wrote and wrote in my journal. I’d had four vivid dreams, four nights in a row.

All four dreams reveal more to me now than they did on that day. Together, they shed light on all the issues that I was tangled up in: denial, anger, sexuality, fear of change, concern for my daughters, the need to get a job. It’s easy to see from here how much they knew about what would happen, even though I couldn’t read all the clues. But the first one, especially, seems to have a story that would only be revealed over time.

It was a short dream, just a brief, neutral conversation.

A woman is looking for work on my behalf. She asks, “Would you be willing to work as a full-time teacher?” I say yes.

It was, I admit, a good question. I possess a credential to teach high school English, but at that time I’d never held a full-time teaching job for more than a year. After a year of teaching I’d be worn out and take a job cooking in a restaurant or retreat center to recover. I flip-flopped back and forth between teaching and cooking for a bunch of years. It seemed I lacked the endurance to be a full time teacher. But surprisingly, I said yes to the woman in my dream. I acknowledged in my journal that this meant I should include teaching in my pool of possibilities.

In November I got back home to Oregon and dove into my job-hunt. In December a friend suggested I talk to the nuns who ran the Montessori school where my daughters went. Because I have no Montessori training, that hadn’t occurred to me, but when I inquired, the principal, Mother Francine, took my hand.

“Don’t take a job anywhere else! We don’t actually have any openings, but give us a little time.” she said.

In January a teacher broke her leg, and I substituted for a month in a Children’s House classroom. Yum.

A month later the Humanities teacher in the middle school, who’d been there many years, got arrested for some unnamed crime. Nothing to do with students, the administration said, but nonetheless, from one day to the next, he couldn’t come onto campus. It was a big hoo-ha, and a lot of rumors swirled around the school, which the nuns were anxious to calm as fast as possible.

There I was, lurking just across the courtyard, as it were. The nuns had known me for eight years. I’d been on a dozen camping trips, had come to every parent event. Other parents knew me, and trusted me, which seemed important in calming the drama. I was even certified to teach high school English.

They offered me the job. I thought about the woman in my dream as I said yes.

Thus it came to pass that in the middle of the school year, without having even applied for it, I got the only professional job in the school that I had the qualifications for.

“God works in mysterious ways,” said Mother Francine.


  1. Polly Wilson

    I love how you can see more in the dreams you had then now than you could at the time. It gives me faith that things unfold as they are intended to.

    • Tina

      I know, Polly. That is exactly what it makes me feel, too–how there is a bigger picture, unknown to my conscious self but somehow known to a deeper part of me.

  2. Kiera O'Hara

    I loved this, Tina. Thank you

    • Tina

      Thank you, Kiera. So glad to hear from you!

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